In a telephone conference call with reporters on Wednesday, November 7, U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement, James Jeffrey, said that Washington hopes that Russia will still allow Israel to continue to attack Iranian targets in Syria.
Ambassador Jeffrey said, “Russia has been permissive in consultation with the Israelis about Israeli strikes against Iranian targets inside Syria. We certainly hope that that permissive approach will continue. But let me be clear. Israel has an existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems such as surface-to-surface missiles, air defense systems to protect them, and drones in Syria aimed at and used against Israel. We understand the existential interest and we support Israel.”
Last month, Russia announced that it supplied the S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Syria. This was done after Syrian aircraft struck a Russian military jet after an Israeli air strike—with Russia holding Israel as the inadvertent cause of the downing of the jet. Both Russia and Iran are supporters of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria.
Israel, on the other hand, considers the Islamic republic as the biggest threat to its people and has consequently staged air strikes against it.
Ambassador Jefferey expressed concerns about the S-300 missiles, saying, “We’re concerned very much about the S-300 system being deployed to Syria. The issue is at the detail level—who will control it. What role will it play?
He also acknowledged how dangerous it is having military from different countries within Syria.
“It’s a dangerous situation as we saw with the shoot-down of the IL-20 Russian aircraft by the Syrian military who thought they were shooting at the Israeli military who allegedly were shooting at Iranian military targets. So, that’s the kind of dangerous situation we have right now in Syria.
Our immediate effort is to try to calm that situation down and then work for a long-term solution.”
The Ambassador reiterated the policy of the United States concerning Syria, which are
–To ensure ISIS’ lasting defeat
–To provide a solution for the country under the 2015 UN Resolution 2254, which includes military de-escalation
–To restore a constitutional committee and eventually see elections held in Syria
–To find the nation’s “underlying problems”
–To ensure that Iranian forces leave the country
As the Ambassador said, “we see the Iranians as part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
Therefore, the US reiterated its support of efforts from the United Nations and is working on regularizing ceasefires, implementing a political solution and then seeing to it that all other forces from other countries leave Syria, except for Russia. “The Russians, having been there before, would not in fact withdraw, but you’ve got four other outside military forces – the Israelis, the Turkish, the Iranian and the American – all operating inside Syria right now. It’s a dangerous situation.”
However, as long as President Assad wants Iran to stay in Syria, its forces will remain there.